The best winter nymph patterns are the ones that inspire confidence

I’ve got nymphing on my brain. I’m hoping to get out this week and scratch that itch, but right now I’m chained to the computer. So here are some of my favorite winter nymph patterns. It’s a short list — I like to keep things simple. These are all high-confidence patterns, which makes them the best nymphs for me. What nymphs do you like to fish in the winter?

You’ll find a lot of tiny bugs in the cold months, especially on a tailwater, so going small with your nymphs is usually a good idea. This late winter beauty fell for a size 18 (2x short) BHPT.

3-10-14 Brown

Frenchie Nymph Variant. A little flash, a little color, a little contrast, a little natural brown means a lot of good nymphing mojo

Squirrel and Ginger Beadhead. Sans bead, one of my favorite caddis emergers. Add a black brass bead and deepwater magic ensues.

G-R Blue Bead Midge. Love this fly in winter when the flows aren’t too high or fast. Make it your top dropper, and if the trout are on small stuff, hold on.

Rainbow Warrior. I like this fly on brighter days. (That’s a general rule of thumb for me: if a fly is based on flash and shine, it won’t do its job as well on overcast days). The Rainbow Warriors are on the cork to the left in the linked shot.

Soft Hackle Pheasant Tail. Sizes 12-14, with a bead, this is my point fly on a two-fly nymph rig. Size 16-20, no bead head, it’s a terrific top dropper. Looks like a ton of bugs in general.

Hare and Copper Variant. What’s there not to like about Pheasant Tail, Red Fox Squirrel, and Hare’s ear? Oh, and there’s a copper bead, too. Sign me up!

“Tying and Fishing Wet Flies with Steve Culton” class added to Marlborough Fly Fishing Show

I’m excited to announce that I’ll be part of the “Classes with the Experts” series at the 2020 Marlborough Fly Fishing Show, Saturday, January 18, 2pm-4:30pm. Here’s the course description: “Learn to tie and fish classic North Country spiders and other wet flies that trout can’t resist. The course also covers basics like leader construction, fly selection, where to fish wet flies, and how to fish them. Intermediate.”

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To attend you must register, and you cannot do that through me. You need to go to the Fly Fishing Show website. Here’s some more info:

Note: Most tying classes require some experience and others may require more. Ask us when you call. Beginners are welcome, but be prepared for more than basics. All students must bring their own tying vise, tools, lamp if needed, and a sampling of materials. Most classes will provide adequate materials for the patterns being taught.  If a class is cancelled, you will be notified 5 days prior to the show and permitted to switch or receive a refund. Bring your own lamp, vise, tools & a basic selection of materials.

To insure quality instruction class size is limited. Call us for more class descriptions or availability. Classes will fill and close, so register early. The tuition charge of $85 includes admission to the show for that day. There are no refunds unless the class is cancelled. You MUST register in advance. For more information call 814-443-3638.

Farmington River Report 12/6/19: Dedicated to the (futile) streamer cause

I fished the permanent TMA today from noon to 2:15pm. Air temp was 37, water about the same, clouds and snow showers. The water was flowing at 340cfs. As the title says, I went all in on streamers, but never drew the protein payoff card. I hit three marks, and enjoyed the water (and my cigar, a San Lotano Pyramid) all to myself. There were bugs about (tiny BWOs, midges) and I even saw a few sporadic rises, but that dull thud on the swing and strip was sadly absent. Not much angler activity — one guy 250 yards below me at the second mark, a few hardy souls here and there, but today you pretty much had your pick of water. Fished a Coffey Sparkle Minnow, Hi-Liter, and Deep Threat, all on the full sink tip integrated line. We’ll get ’em next time.

Shooting the streamer line. I had forgotten how a few hours in the cold saps me. I’m wiped out, but looking forward to pizza night.

shooting

 

Salmon River Steelhead Report 11/11-11/13: Mama Told Me (Not To Come)

Mothers can’t help but worry, and so it was with mine when I told her I was going steelheading during the first real cold snap of the season. Turns out she was only partially right.

Nothing kills the steelhead bite with more indifferent cruelty than a cold front. The fishing had been pretty good the few days and hours before we arrived — lots of steelhead, particularly in the upper end of the river, and fair enough weather and flows. By the time we waded in, things were already going south. (The irony will not be lost on those who recognize the cold front as a wanderer originating from the north.)

This was my first non-solo steelhead trip (other than with my sons) in years, as I had the company of the illustrious Peter Jenkins, owner of the Saltwater Edge in Newport, RI. If Jenks looks cold, he probably is. I know I was. The thing about a boat in winter is that there’s a pernicious, unexpected kind of cold — you’re not able to walk around, and if it’s windy you’re exposed to the gusts as they whip off the water.

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We hit the river with positive resolve at 2:30pm Monday, and although we gave it a good effort, no steelhead made it to the hoop. In fact, I didn’t have a single touch. Jenks had, at least, the excitement of a few takes. Timing is everything, though, and we clearly missed it (Sal from Legends on the Farmington was fishing across from us and reported many earlier fish to net from his group.)

Tuesday was float day with my friend James Kirtland of Row Jimmy Guide Service. There’s a technical description for the conditions we experienced — I think “shitty” is the term. We had snow and wind and cold, and let’s throw in a disaster bite for good measure. Jenks had a few touches, but no love on the hookups. My single take of the day produced a newly-minted coin of a skipper, and given the conditions, I took my 1-for-1 and ran with it.

So much depends upon a propane heater, glazed with snowflakes beside the white pizza box. (I love how often that poem lends itself to fishing situations.) Speaking of food, here’s a hot dining tip for those heading up to Pulaski: 11 North Bar & Grill. We visited on Taco Tuesday, and enjoyed three stuffed beefy tacos each for the grand total of $9. That’s not a misprint. Yummy wings, plus a good beer on tap list.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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We performed seemingly never-ending eyelet triage as the mercury never made it out of the 20s for the entire trip. Stuff like Loon Outdoors Stanley’s Ice-Off Paste works…for part of an hour, then it’s back to ice patrol. 

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And then, there was Wednesday. On the river early: 17 degrees. Off the water at 3pm: 19 degrees. Hookups up and down the line were few and far between, with landings even scarcer. And it was just plain suck-the-warmth-out-of-you cold. So when my indicator dipped, I was happy that I got a good, hard, downstream hookset. That’s breath coming out of my mouth, not cigar smoke. Please also appreciate the lake effect snow shower, and Jenks’ fine photography.

Seventeendegrees

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I fouled one more, lost another to a tippet failure (had to have been nicked), and had a couple of bumps that never resulted in a tight line. But any day you can land a steelhead is a good day. And from the look on the angler’s face, regardless of the weather, that is the way to have fun, son.

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Long time no post: steelhead recovery and “Wet Flies 101” next week

Forgive me, faithful readers, but I’ve been away fishing for steelhead. Maybe that should be “survival fishing for steelhead.” Very early rising (I’m used to getting home then, not waking up) and bitter cold took it out of me. So, I ask for your indulgence while I recover, and we’ll have a fun to read (I hope) report next week.

Speaking of next week, I’m going to be presenting Wet Flies 101, Tuesday, November 19, Nutmeg TU, 7pm, Port 5, Bridgeport, CT. If you’re interested in this highly effective and underutilized subsurface method, Wet Flies 101 provides an overview and gateway into this ancient and traditional art. Hope to see you there!  You can find the Nutmeg TU Facebook page here and their website here.

That’s my breath, not cigar smoke. 17 degrees on your Fahrenheit dial.

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Some steelhead standards and a wee bit of junk

Regrettably, I’ve spent far too little time this fall at the steelhead bench. To be fair, part of that’s due to a well-stocked box. Here are a few old reliables, and some eggy/junky stuff the steelhead might like.

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